Friday, August 10, 2012

Camp Widow + 1 Year

Almost exactly to the day, one year ago I sat outside a room filled with strangers who shared a common experience with me – we had all lost our spouse.  I didn’t want anything to do with “those people.”  I didn’t want to be one of them.  I didn’t want to walk through that door and admit that my life had been changed forever, that my wife had died, and that I was a widower.  But I did.  And because I did, I’m a changed person.

In that room I met people who understood what it felt like to lose my Maggie. They understood that I still felt married to my wife.  They understood how our closest friends abandoned me.  They understood that sometimes on some days the only possible thing I could bring myself to do was breath.  Or that remembering to eat was a win.  Or that wishing that a meteor or train or random, armed psychopath would strike me down.  Or that I would give anything (including my own life) just to talk to Maggie one more time.  In that room, there were people who truly understood.  In that room, there were people just like me.

Thinking back on that day a year ago, it’s difficult to get that old me into focus.  I have grown so much and changed in ways that it’s hard to believe.  My feet are steadier.  My emotions are less in control of me than I am in control of them.  And I am no longer and never again will be ashamed of being a widower.  I am proud of what I’ve survived and the choices I’ve made.  I own this (not the other way around.)

What made all the difference to me was meeting others who understood my past because of their own similar past.  Talking with other widows and widowers made me realize that I wasn’t crazy.  And meeting widows and widowers who were further along this path than me gave me just a glimmer of hope that I could do it too.  I could survive this long, cold winter.  And, one year later I can tell you I have survived.  I’m still here, despite my daily wishes otherwise.  Take note: if I can survive this, you can too.  Write that down!  Put it on your mirror in your bathroom.  You can do it!  But what will really help you is to find others that you can talk to that understand, TRULY understand what it means to lose a spouse.

I’ve changed so much in the last year.  I’m literally a different person. I’m not “healed,” what ever that means.  I’m not “over it,” again, what ever that means.  And I’ve definitely not “moved on.”   None of those labels will ever apply; grief just doesn’t work that way.  I’m a different person because I chose to walk through that door one year ago and let new people into my life.  I am who I am today because of the people I met one year ago at Camp Widow.

Today I get to meet the new strangers who didn’t want to be here.  I’ll sit just outside the door and watch for those who, like me, don’t want to “join.”  Hopefully, they’ll come inside, meet new friends and realize that they aren’t alone.  Despite how it feels, none of us are alone.

See you soon.


  1. Chris, this sounds SO much like me. I went to CWE this year. I'm 20 months out. Even though none of us wanted membership into this club, here we are. I decided that I may as well embrace the opportunities at CWE, learn how to survive in this new life I've been thrown into and get a few hugs along the way. I'm so glad I went . . . It is a life-changing experience!

  2. Chris, you will do such a fantastic job welcoming those who come kicking and screaming to the club no one wants to join! You words are honest and open and even though they are not "live" for me, they still provide inspiration and dimish that hopeless lonely feeling!

    Thank you and best of luck this weekend!

  3. Chris thank you for the post, I wish I could have gone to CW in San Diego. This would be my first. Maybe in April.

  4. Chris, I have already registered for Camp Widow East and your post gives me reassurance that I've made the right decision. I have become very secluded and need to interact with those who can truly identify with my innermost feelings. Thanks again for your post.

  5. Your second paragraph starting with your second sentence describes me and my life! Thank you for reinforcing what I feel. You have me considering Camp Widow for next year....maybe!